Cheerful giving

This past Sunday during a small group session, we were speaking about the potential that each of us has, in God’s grace and in our own lives. I said that one of my greatest struggles in realizing my potential is giving 100% of myself to anything.

I don’t think this is an uncommon problem. For myriad reasons, we as humans are tentative to give of ourselves unconditionally. Am I fearful of failure, and so I give only that which I think I can afford to lose? Perhaps. Am I anxious that I will find myself rejected by people if I show them my whole self, unguarded? Definitely. Do I feel as though I should only pay back in kind what people feel comfortable giving to me? Maybe. Ultimately, my reasons and motivations are probably irrelevant. I believe that every time I’ve ever truly failed in my life has been due to my reluctance to give of myself fully. Every lost friendship, every failed relationship, every task I’ve ever left incomplete, every door of opportunity by which I’ve passed. I own and carry these failures because I couldn’t dedicate myself fully to them. I’ve been vigilantly en garde, thinking that if I protected myself by holding back, my failures would be diminished, and my heart would be less vulnerable.

I could not have been more totally wrong if I’d tried. I know that now. It doesn’t help me make peace with those past mistakes. What’s done is done, and all I can do is look forward to being better.

I was reading Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians early this morning, and I came across a verse that spoke to me directly. In chapter nine, Paul is speaking directly to the idea of giving to the church, and to the importance of charity. But, I think, his advice applies to all aspects of my life. He writes:

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

We all know the aphorism: we reap what we sow. If I plant and properly tend corn, corn will grow.  If I plant weeds, those will grow too. What I had failed to understand, though, is that the effort and extent with which I sow those seeds will dictate the abundance of my harvest.

In terms of every interpersonal relationship I have–friendships, romantic entanglements, family, mentorships–giving of myself fully will mean more rewarding relationships. If what I seek is someone willing to give all of themselves to me, then I must first be willing to give all of myself. This means being honest, courageous, loving, accepting, and vulnerable. It means letting people see all of me, fatal flaws included. It means bringing down the shields, and allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Most importantly, though, it means that in order to fully find myself with God, I must give 100% of myself to Him. There can be no half-measures. I cannot have one single toe out of the water. I cannot go most of the way, and leave a guarded part of myself behind. I’ve written before that I desire borderless trust, and the only way that I will ever find it is if I seek it wholly. I must trust that if I cheerfully (and without reluctance) give myself to God, that He will give me everything I need in return.

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